Before S phase, cells license replication origins for initiation by loading them with Mcm2-7 heterohexamers. This process is dependent on Cdc6, which is recruited to unlicensed origins. Using Xenopus egg extracts we show that although each origin can load many Mcm2-7 hexamers, the affinity of Cdc6 for each origins drops once it has been licensed by loading the first hexamers. This encourages the distribution of at least one Mcm2-7 hexamer to each origin, and thereby helps to ensure that all origins are licensed. Although Cdc6 is not essential for DNA replication once licensing is complete, Cdc6 regains a high affinity for origins once replication forks are initiated and Mcm2-7 has been displaced from the origin DNA. We show that the presence of Cdc6 during S phase is essential for the checkpoint kinase Chk1 to become activated in response to replication inhibition. These results show that Cdc6 plays multiple roles in ensuring precise chromosome duplication.